Multiple Works in Progress: How?


Works in Progress:

I often get asked how many WIPs I have--for non-writers that stands for "works in progress"--and explain my average is 5. The next follow up question is "HOW?" To explain how, first let me define what WIP means to me, as I think the definition could be different for those whom are monogamous to their manuscripts.

I define a WIP as any book I'm working on actively within a three-month cycle that is not in print yet. This includes ones with the publisher that we're editing, ones I'm working on to submit, and ones I'm drafting. If I haven't worked on a manuscript in more than three months, I consider it no longer a WIP and call it "shelved," even if only temporarily.

How does my system work? Well, first know that I'm a pantser, meaning I plan nothing in the manuscripts themselves and often write out of order. It's not for the faint of heart, but does save me time. Despite my wild writing style, my system for when I write and what I write is very organized. Call it organized chaos. Next, I'll exemplify and break down where I am currently for my 5 WIPs from oldest to newest so you can literally see the "'how."

My organized chaos
WIP 1: in a timeout, copyedits and marketing plan stage fast approaching for July release
WIP 2: in a timeout, publishers and I are soon embarking on round 1 edits for Feb. 2021 release
WIP 3: active, working on revision stage, but also editing as I go, submission deadline June 1st
WIP 4: active, halfway drafted, no deadline
WIP 5: active, first draft has 3 chapters down, submission deadline Dec. 31st

If you look at my list, my active WIPs are only 3, but while I'm writing all 3, it is not uncommon I am sent the email that editing or copyediting has begun on the other 2. I should also explain my 3-month cycle is because given certain times of year--like now--I have a lot of paper grading to do since I'm a college lecturer too. Within a month is is not uncommon that I work on all 5, sometimes 2 different ones on the same day. I go with my mood. Not feeling creative? Edit. Problem-solving mood? Revise content. Imagination won't stop? Drafting.

So how do I keep everything straight and not mix things up? I don't know. I have no amazing software or spreadsheets or note files. All these amazing organizational skills others have take a lot of time to set up, and then I found in the past that I ignored them completely. I'm not knocking on those organized folks out there, but it is time consuming and a skill that personally limits my creativity. What I do do is make 1 little (as in post-it-note sized) to-do list for my 3-month rounds which includes marketing and such--the thing I might forget about most. The rest resides in my brain.

How do I switch from one story to the other and remember where I left off? I dunno, but as a kid I was often frustrated that people couldn't do this and didn't have the memory I had about things; I didn't understand that people's brains didn't work like databases with multiple browsers you could tap into. I must conclude then, that for me, my ADHD--hyperactive type--is a gift in this respect. I know not everyone who can juggle multiple WIPs is neurodiverse, but I know it is the reason why I can juggle ideas, memorize, and hyperfocus when it comes to writing. It works for me for writing, but before you'll accuse me of bragging, outside of writing those brain browsers can make life hell by vying which one holds my attention. Spoiler alert: it's not the one that I need at that time almost ever (right now this blog begged to be written but I should be grading papers). I may have a fantastic mind when it comes to writing, but in life, it can be a bummer. Now if only I could remember to pack a fork for my lunch, where I left my keys, or to buy toilet paper...

Series Thoughts: When to Stop

Series Thoughts: 

When to Stop

I love writing and reading series, but have you ever read one and it just went too far, taking something you loved and destroyed it? I have, but I would never mention names. This seems to happen in romances, particularly young adult literature.

Before any young adult writers go into attack mode, I'm one of you too and love the genre. When I discuss "series" in this post, I'm referring to continuous storylines with the same characters. My question is, is there a magic number of books that is suitable? Or is there a line we shouldn't cross? I don't think there's a clear-cut answer. Although I want to leave it as the old expression, "as many books as the story needs," I've seen authors surpass that. The story is beautiful and could wrap up nicely and then bam! Here's another one ruining the happily ever after, and we'll throw in some love triangles and an arrogant jerk we're supposed to prefer over the man we had just fallen in love with in the prior book. I may sound mocking, and as a reader I am. As an author, I am most likely guilty of these tropes too, but I never want to take a series too far.

For example, I have a YA fantasy romance series that I decided to keep as a trilogy (Celestial Spheres, book 1 Fyr is available here). Why did I choose a trilogy? Because the plot of their world and their conflicts all wrapped up nicely in three books. To add more, I would have to destroy their relationship. I had already thrown so much troubles their way that inventing something huge would be contrived and piss off my readers, so I won't even try to. I have pondered on spinoff series with a family member, other spheres--since this trilogy takes place on a fire planet--but again, I feel like I'm flogging a dying horse instead of inventing new beauteous things. I may come back one day, but for now, it's wonderful as is and will be done.

I have another series, a YA paranormal romance, that looks like it will be five books (The Immortal Transcripts, book 1 Quiver can be purchased here). It has three main characters, lots of side characters, so plenty of plot which will carry me easily through five books. My characters' love lives will take up all five books, because their love ties directly into the more political plot of how they are impacting the world around them. Sometimes it is what happens around them that is important, rather than just the romance aspect, and sometimes my main lovers take a backseat to others' love stories. Sometimes familial relationships and friendships are the more important part. Basically, it is so complex that it warrants five books without repetition or contrived plot tropes.

Last, I have a shelved YA fantasy romance series where I was four books in, thinking it would end up as five. I wondered if there was too much love story, too many tropes and relationships, meaning I put too much into books 1-4 and should spread them out. Does this series warrant seven books so my MCs' relationships appear natural in terms of time span? Do I dare take it that far?

I had always seen the magic number being five, that crossing that line in a young adult romance can cause issues: characters aging out of the category, too many cliched tropes, repetition, contrived plots, reader boredom or lack of funds, etc. As a reader, I usually lose interest after five. I have the annoyed mentality of--"what now?" I've only actually made it through a few YA romance series that were more than five with the same characters, the rest I quit after about book three and reading a sample of the next book, cheated by looking at the blurbs, or asked others if it was worth it. In most cases, I ended up refusing to invest more time and money into the series because I was annoyed it sounded dragged out in contrived ways. I don't think I'm alone in thinking this; with so many good books out there in the world, why waste time with a series that no longer wows you when you can move other ones that do?

So writers and readers, what do you think the magic number of novels is for a YA romance (with the same characters) series? Where do you typically like to cap it off?

If interested in any of these books, you can find them here. You can follow me through this link for notification of future novels too.

Query Example: Quiver

Query Example:


For the first time ever, last fall, I didn't have to query or pitch on Twitter to get published. I now have a publisher to submit directly to. It is a huge milestone of an author's career and I am proud, but I miss creating pitches and queries. You'll call me sick, a masochist even, but I enjoyed writing queries and pitches--the waiting and rejection, I could definitely do without. The actual process of querying sucks, but mastering how to write just the letter has been a skill I learned to love.

As a pantser (non plotting writer), drafting that query during revisions of the manuscript was essential. Summing up the plot of my novel for the query letter forces me to examine my plot. If I struggle too hard to sum it up, then I might have a plot hole or things are unclear. For this novel, this is the query I had used in 2012. It received multiple 50-page requests, 5 full manuscript requests, 2 R&R's (revise and resubmit) that I rejected due to the drastic changes being asked, 1 agent interested in taking it on to sell as a novel and movie rights. This sounds like a dream come true, but the deal fell through.

I digress. The query worked, but I didn't end up using it again, shelved the book, and then submitted it to my publisher last winter. Here is my letter with notes (in red). I have updated certain areas of the letter noted below.

Dear Agent, (This should be specific, but I stripped his details out)

You think your family is large, complicated, and dysfunctional? Archer Ambrose, previously known as Eros, would beg to differ. After over 3000 years of a mostly uneventful existence as the god of love, Archer will finally learn how much harm one’s family can do. (This is your hook, usually near the beginning of a query that sucks the reader in; I asked a question forcing the reader to align with one of my MCs and then explained whom he was.)

Let me introduce you to Quiver, a YA high-concept paranormal romance that is 93,000 words. Told in first-person by four narrators, they spin tale of mythological proportions where a profound love threatens to undermine the immortal way of life. (This is also early on in query letters; the agent/publisher needs to know word count, genre, and I added POV because that was something they felt strongly about in their feedback--they loved it or hated it. Originally, I was querying this as 106,000 words which didn't seem to affect the amount of positive responses.) When Callie Syches moves to Manhattan her senior year, Archer feels passionately drawn to her. His dysfunctional family doesn't like this new attachment including his Grandpa Zeus who wants Callie silenced forever, his overbearing mother who poses as his sister, and his uncle, the truth-seeker, who is puzzled over a prophecy concerning her. Inadvertently, Callie, who “sees” too much, threatens to destroy Archer’s mortal fa├žade. From evidence such as Archer’s eyes that shine when feeling intense emotions to his instant healing abilities, Callie begins to unravel the secrets to a world she can hardly fathom. As the couple’s love blossoms and Callie discovers the truth, Zeus makes a devastating move. Unable to contemplate life without her, Archer must decide what is more important, family or love. (This is the synopsis blurb. I gave them everything but the ending; I avoided all the subplots and other conflicts focusing on the central love story. I have included the themes of family and love, which are essential in the book.)

Blending Greek mythology into a modern love story of epic proportions seems an arduous task, but having BA’s in English, Dramatic Arts, and an MA in English, gives me a vast background of knowledge of character and world building. (Since this had been the first book I queried, my former roster was only the above and one short story--that I now leave out of queries because it's not as impressive as other titles. Not having anything here did seem to make a difference which is why I stopped querying early on and focused on publishing shorter works first. As soon as that one story was on there, I got responses. I think experience helps. I also included my degrees but only because they directly factor into writing.) I’ve published the novella “Dare” in the Kissed anthology (Evernight Teen), a stand alone novel Apidae (Evernight Teen), and book 1 of the Celestial Spheres trilogy titled Fyr (Authors 4 Authors Publishing). I’m also a college Lecturer and strongly believe in the effectiveness of publicity through social media, and use a blog and other digital venues. (This is my updated roster. I mentioned my job only because I teach writing to students who are the age group as my readers. A social media presence is good too. You don't have to mention this if you include all your links like I did below, but this was popular request in 2012 for authors to have a presence , so I added it.)  

I am looking for official representation in the publishing world to champion my full-length manuscripts. It would be a pleasure to work with an agent with extensive experience in editing and publishing, dealing with such companies as Penguin and Harper Collins, and who is eager to explore the YA market. At your request, I would love to send the full-length manuscript of Quiver for your review. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and I humbly thank you for your time. (To wrap it up, you get to the point. We write these to have the agent/publisher read the entire MS and hopefully offer us representation. So ask. Also, it is extremely important to do your research about the company or agent and to show you have. Above, I mention details about the impressive powerhouses this man works with and how he was starting to add YA authors to his client list. Like dating, you want to butter them up a little so they'll ask you out-- but don't flirt! That was just an analogy.)


Lisa Borne Graves

This may be my last query for a while as I'm lined up to release--if all goes well--eight books with my publisher without having to write another. But you never know, since I don't mind doing them.

Interested in the book? Here is where you can purchase the novel: Quiver

Birth Announcement: QUIVER

Birth Announcement: 


Without further ado, I'd like to announce the birth of another book baby. Quiver, book 1 of The Immortal Transcripts, is now available. Here's the info and links. I'm immensely proud of this book--my first novel written that took more than a decade to get into print. Hope you enjoy it!

What would you do if you could live forever? Could you hide it from the one you truly loved, especially if her life depended on it?

Thanks to his dysfunctional Olympian family, Archer Ambrose finds out firsthand how difficult this can be. He never falls in love but bestows it on others—until he meets Callie.

When Callie Syches moves to the Upper East Side to prepare for her father’s impending death, she doesn’t expect to meet the boy of her dreams. She also never believed her father’s harebrained theory about myths, but her uncanny ability to “see” uncovers godly secrets Callie can hardly fathom.

With an immortal family demanding absolute obedience, how far will Archer go to protect his love from the storm the gods will unleash upon them?

In this reinvention of Cupid and Psyche, experience an electrifying series where familial and romantic bonds are at war, and knowledge could mean the end of everything…or a new beginning.

Can’t wait to read more? Order now here. Also available on Amazon, Books.A.Million, Shakespeare and Co, Books, Rediscovered Books, and other retailers.


Tales in Publishing: Query example

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